Rating: 2/5The Accidental Call Girl - Portia da Costa

*While my review contains nothing nsfw, this is an erotica novel*


It’s the ultimate fantasy: When Lizzie meets an attractive older man in the bar of a luxury hotel, he mistakes her for a high class call girl on the look-out for a wealthy client.


I waited too long to review this book after I read it because I couldn’t decide how to go about it— do I rate it as I do any book, or do I rate it an erotica novel (of which I have limited experience).  
What I can tell you is that this book is 90% erotica and 10% fiction, so there remains very little to be reviewed.  If you’re looking for a kinky read though, this book is literally sex scene after sex scene in almost every way you could want it (or maybe I’m just naive).  I bought this book because I’d heard about it online and it was 2.99 on Barnes and Noble and I had a $3 credit from some ebook settlement, and at least for an entertaining read, it did not disappoint.  
To start, the writing irked me, though this may be partially because it’s written in British English and I’m from the US.  A specific example was the phrase “over glasses of fluids various”.  That’s just not something that reads right to me and that arrangement of words appeared multiple times.  I also had to look up the phrase “spent a penny” and after knowing what it means, I don’t understand why it had to be included in the novel at least three times.  Things that were not so British: she also referred to the bite of gin as a “silvery ferociousness” which I found a little comical.  And I highlighted this time-setting gem: “the morning after the night before”.  
For what it was, the author made an attempt to create a compelling backstory, at least some of the time, albeit pretty far into the novel.  While trying to add depth to the novel, I think Da Costa just made it harder for more readers to relate because none of the characters are particularly interesting or unique until you get to Brent— the heroine’s depressed gay best friend/ex lover/roommate who also happened to be a sex worker on the side when he was strapped for cash.  Other than being a cautioning word at the beginning of the novel however, he doesn’t really become relevant until the book starts grasping for some plot lines to link the sex scenes together, and then he becomes indispensable.  

The book reminded me too much of Fifty Shades without Christian Grey’s deliciousness, but maybe it’s just because that was my first erotica and what I know to look for.  Maybe this book would’ve done more for someone whose had a Pretty Woman fantasy, but it just came across as a funny, light read, which I don’t think is what Ms. Da Costa intended.

Rating: 2/5
The Accidental Call Girl - Portia da Costa

*While my review contains nothing nsfw, this is an erotica novel*

It’s the ultimate fantasy:
When Lizzie meets an attractive older man in the bar of a luxury hotel, he mistakes her for a high class call girl on the look-out for a wealthy client.

I waited too long to review this book after I read it because I couldn’t decide how to go about it— do I rate it as I do any book, or do I rate it an erotica novel (of which I have limited experience).  

What I can tell you is that this book is 90% erotica and 10% fiction, so there remains very little to be reviewed.  If you’re looking for a kinky read though, this book is literally sex scene after sex scene in almost every way you could want it (or maybe I’m just naive).  I bought this book because I’d heard about it online and it was 2.99 on Barnes and Noble and I had a $3 credit from some ebook settlement, and at least for an entertaining read, it did not disappoint.  

To start, the writing irked me, though this may be partially because it’s written in British English and I’m from the US.  A specific example was the phrase “over glasses of fluids various”.  That’s just not something that reads right to me and that arrangement of words appeared multiple times.  I also had to look up the phrase “spent a penny” and after knowing what it means, I don’t understand why it had to be included in the novel at least three times.  Things that were not so British: she also referred to the bite of gin as a “silvery ferociousness” which I found a little comical.  And I highlighted this time-setting gem: “the morning after the night before”.  

For what it was, the author made an attempt to create a compelling backstory, at least some of the time, albeit pretty far into the novel.  While trying to add depth to the novel, I think Da Costa just made it harder for more readers to relate because none of the characters are particularly interesting or unique until you get to Brent— the heroine’s depressed gay best friend/ex lover/roommate who also happened to be a sex worker on the side when he was strapped for cash.  Other than being a cautioning word at the beginning of the novel however, he doesn’t really become relevant until the book starts grasping for some plot lines to link the sex scenes together, and then he becomes indispensable.  

The book reminded me too much of Fifty Shades without Christian Grey’s deliciousness, but maybe it’s just because that was my first erotica and what I know to look for.  Maybe this book would’ve done more for someone whose had a Pretty Woman fantasy, but it just came across as a funny, light read, which I don’t think is what Ms. Da Costa intended.

Rating: 4.5/5The Bridge from Me to You - Lisa Schroeder
The Bridge from Me to You was a surprisingly adorable read!  It’s written from the perspective of high school seniors Lauren, whose entries are written in verse, and Colby, written in prose.  As I’ve mentioned before, I am not a huge fan of the verse novels, but alternating between styles like that made it much more bearable.  The contrast between the two characters’ voices was much more pronounced.  I began to think of Lauren as light and airy, or flowy like her verse, and Colby as more rational and focused.  There were even a few of Lauren’s chapters written in prose, for significant reasons.  This may be the first time I’ve ever felt that the style contributed to the story instead of just being unnecessarily added.  That said, it wasn’t something I picked up on from the beginning, but it’ll add to the experience of a re-read. 
It started out a little slow.  The plotline was very familiar and my initial comments were skeptical, but the story veered away from a lot of the problems I predicted and took a very novel approach to most YA “chick lit”, including others by Lisa Schroeder, herself.  I started to get excited about this novel when romance and hooking up took a backseat to true friendship—being there for someone, supporting their decisions and encouraging them for the future, and being a good listener— it wasn’t perfect and it wasn’t the entire book, it still falls into the canon and there are no big shockers about the story, but I am really excited about a market where our teenagers are reading about friendships and relationships like the ones here. 

She took a classic small town story and made it interesting, endearing, and a story of hope and friendship.  I loved it and I recommend it to everyone. 
(To read the full review which contains spoilers, check out my Goodreads.) 

Rating: 4.5/5
The Bridge from Me to You - Lisa Schroeder

The Bridge from Me to You was a surprisingly adorable read!  It’s written from the perspective of high school seniors Lauren, whose entries are written in verse, and Colby, written in prose.  As I’ve mentioned before, I am not a huge fan of the verse novels, but alternating between styles like that made it much more bearable.  The contrast between the two characters’ voices was much more pronounced.  I began to think of Lauren as light and airy, or flowy like her verse, and Colby as more rational and focused.  There were even a few of Lauren’s chapters written in prose, for significant reasons.  This may be the first time I’ve ever felt that the style contributed to the story instead of just being unnecessarily added.  That said, it wasn’t something I picked up on from the beginning, but it’ll add to the experience of a re-read. 

It started out a little slow.  The plotline was very familiar and my initial comments were skeptical, but the story veered away from a lot of the problems I predicted and took a very novel approach to most YA “chick lit”, including others by Lisa Schroeder, herself.  I started to get excited about this novel when romance and hooking up took a backseat to true friendship—being there for someone, supporting their decisions and encouraging them for the future, and being a good listener— it wasn’t perfect and it wasn’t the entire book, it still falls into the canon and there are no big shockers about the story, but I am really excited about a market where our teenagers are reading about friendships and relationships like the ones here. 

She took a classic small town story and made it interesting, endearing, and a story of hope and friendship.  I loved it and I recommend it to everyone. 

(To read the full review which contains spoilers, check out my Goodreads.) 

Rating: 4/5The Psychopath Test - Jon Ronson
I was assigned this book for my Abnormal Psych class this semester with the instructions to just have it finished before December, but I got through it in two days and I’m so happy that I did. The Psychopath Test was an interesting read for me because of how innocent it comes across. The author/journalist has no psychiatric background and goes into the “investigation” with fresh eyes and yet I think the points that he makes are all relatively valid. He writes frankly about his interviewees and his skepticism of the whole process with a sense of humor that made it easily relatable as well as a really fun read. The meat of Ronson’s book deals with Bob Hare’s PCL-R Psycopathy test, which is basically just a checklist of characteristics that someone would have to exhibit to be labelled a “psychopath”. It’s imperfect at best, but Ronson’s book came across as an honest portrayal of a layman trying to understand the “science” behind a tool that can get people locked away for the rest of their lives because of the danger they may pose to society. A large portion of the book consists of interviews with Bob Hare himself, who is tirelessly quotable. Ronson also interviews men in prison who have been labelled psychopaths, “professional” psychopath profilers, as well as successful men who he believes may have psychopathic tendencies that got them to their positions of power. Ronson also explains a bit about the DSM-IV and the classification for any and all mental illnesses, as well as the ways that they can be over-generalized, over-diagnosed, and incredibly harmful to millions of lives. He manages to conduct interviews with incredibly important people in the field, including Robert Spritzer and David Rosenham who have very interesting things to say about their contributions. I enjoyed it as a psychology major, but I recommend it to anyone who has an interest in mental health and illness, as long as you don’t take it as science and start looking to spot psychopaths in your daily life. I’d have to do a little more research before I get too excited about any of the actual facts of the story—some of the anecdotes and direct quotes from his interviewees are too hilarious or just monumentally shocking to be printed without backlash from any number of sources, but it’s an enjoyable and informative read and the message I took home from it is one that I believe is fair: “At what point does querying diagnostic criteria tip over into mocking the unusual symptoms of people in very real distress?”

Rating: 4/5
The Psychopath Test - Jon Ronson

I was assigned this book for my Abnormal Psych class this semester with the instructions to just have it finished before December, but I got through it in two days and I’m so happy that I did. 

The Psychopath Test was an interesting read for me because of how innocent it comes across. The author/journalist has no psychiatric background and goes into the “investigation” with fresh eyes and yet I think the points that he makes are all relatively valid. He writes frankly about his interviewees and his skepticism of the whole process with a sense of humor that made it easily relatable as well as a really fun read. 

The meat of Ronson’s book deals with Bob Hare’s PCL-R Psycopathy test, which is basically just a checklist of characteristics that someone would have to exhibit to be labelled a “psychopath”. It’s imperfect at best, but Ronson’s book came across as an honest portrayal of a layman trying to understand the “science” behind a tool that can get people locked away for the rest of their lives because of the danger they may pose to society. 

A large portion of the book consists of interviews with Bob Hare himself, who is tirelessly quotable. Ronson also interviews men in prison who have been labelled psychopaths, “professional” psychopath profilers, as well as successful men who he believes may have psychopathic tendencies that got them to their positions of power. 

Ronson also explains a bit about the DSM-IV and the classification for any and all mental illnesses, as well as the ways that they can be over-generalized, over-diagnosed, and incredibly harmful to millions of lives. He manages to conduct interviews with incredibly important people in the field, including Robert Spritzer and David Rosenham who have very interesting things to say about their contributions. 

I enjoyed it as a psychology major, but I recommend it to anyone who has an interest in mental health and illness, as long as you don’t take it as science and start looking to spot psychopaths in your daily life. 

I’d have to do a little more research before I get too excited about any of the actual facts of the story—some of the anecdotes and direct quotes from his interviewees are too hilarious or just monumentally shocking to be printed without backlash from any number of sources, but it’s an enjoyable and informative read and the message I took home from it is one that I believe is fair: “At what point does querying diagnostic criteria tip over into mocking the unusual symptoms of people in very real distress?”

Rating: 1/5Wickedpedia - Chris Van Etten
There are a few different covers out there for Wickedpedia, and each one creepier than the last. It had the promise of a real Goosebumps-style thriller and the perfect fall read, but it wasn’t mean to be. 

Cole and Gavin love playing practical jokes through Wikipedia. They edit key articles and watch their classmates crash and burn giving oral reports on historical figures like Genghis Khan, the first female astronaut on Jupiter. So after the star soccer player steals Cole’s girlfriend, the boys take their revenge by creating a Wikipedia page for him, an entry full of outlandish information including details about his bizarre death on the soccer field.It’s all in good fun, until the soccer player is killed in a freak accident … just as Cole and Gavin predicted. The uneasy boys vow to leave Wikipedia alone but someone continues to edit articles about classmates dying in gruesome ways … and those entries start to come true as well.To his horror, Cole soon discovers that someone has created a Wikipedia page for him, and included a date of death. He has one week to figure out who’s behind the murders, or else he’s set to meet a pretty grisly end.
 
(via Goodreads)

From the get go, I wasn’t enthused about any of the characters. Cole and his friends are seniors in high school, so around 17/18, but from their conversations, they could be in middle school. They’re all incredibly whiny and melodramatic and causing fights over nothing. The storyline itself started out strong enough. The novel followed a lot of the conventions of a typical mystery novel with red herrings and false clues, but it quickly fell to the far side of the line with off-color puns and incredibly graphic and gory death scenes. The writing got a little off as well, featuring lines like, “He kept on walking until he was home, his shame trotting alongside him like a stray dog he’d made the mistake of feeding once, now bonded to him for life”. One character speaks German for two or three chapters with no translation or indication of what she’s saying. What started out as an intriguing modern-day horror plot, quickly deteriorated into pure testosterone-driven fantasy. Students are bursting into classrooms in the middle of the day to start fights, police officers on duty are distracted from the job by the aroma of coffee, and nerds seek revenge for getting dissed by a girl they feel entitled to. Too many plot holes, including a forced ending. I barely finished this one.

Rating: 1/5
Wickedpedia - Chris Van Etten

There are a few different covers out there for Wickedpedia, and each one creepier than the last. It had the promise of a real Goosebumps-style thriller and the perfect fall read, but it wasn’t mean to be. 

Cole and Gavin love playing practical jokes through Wikipedia. They edit key articles and watch their classmates crash and burn giving oral reports on historical figures like Genghis Khan, the first female astronaut on Jupiter. So after the star soccer player steals Cole’s girlfriend, the boys take their revenge by creating a Wikipedia page for him, an entry full of outlandish information including details about his bizarre death on the soccer field.

It’s all in good fun, until the soccer player is killed in a freak accident … just as Cole and Gavin predicted. The uneasy boys vow to leave Wikipedia alone but someone continues to edit articles about classmates dying in gruesome ways … and those entries start to come true as well.

To his horror, Cole soon discovers that someone has created a Wikipedia page for him, and included a date of death. He has one week to figure out who’s behind the murders, or else he’s set to meet a pretty grisly end.

 

(via Goodreads)


From the get go, I wasn’t enthused about any of the characters. Cole and his friends are seniors in high school, so around 17/18, but from their conversations, they could be in middle school. They’re all incredibly whiny and melodramatic and causing fights over nothing. 

The storyline itself started out strong enough. The novel followed a lot of the conventions of a typical mystery novel with red herrings and false clues, but it quickly fell to the far side of the line with off-color puns and incredibly graphic and gory death scenes. The writing got a little off as well, featuring lines like, “He kept on walking until he was home, his shame trotting alongside him like a stray dog he’d made the mistake of feeding once, now bonded to him for life”. One character speaks German for two or three chapters with no translation or indication of what she’s saying. 

What started out as an intriguing modern-day horror plot, quickly deteriorated into pure testosterone-driven fantasy. Students are bursting into classrooms in the middle of the day to start fights, police officers on duty are distracted from the job by the aroma of coffee, and nerds seek revenge for getting dissed by a girl they feel entitled to. Too many plot holes, including a forced ending. I barely finished this one.

Rating: 4/5Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
As a recent fan of historical fiction, Memoirs of a Geisha fit exactly what I was looking for.  This is a book that I think most people have on their to-read shelf at some point, and I highly recommend that you sit down with this one.  I have not actually seen the movie, but I think I might look it up as soon as I finish this review.

As far as the actual story, the life of a geisha was mesmerizing to me.  The training and the art and the subtlety were all either incredibly interesting or just told in a way that made them seem so.  Rather than bombarded with facts, you get introduced to the world alongside Chiyo (though her name changes), a young girl taken from her ill and poverty-stricken parents and sold to a geisha house.  I became completely immersed in the society and it’s an interesting feeling to find yourself falling somewhere between being horrified at the idea of a pre-teen girl being valued most for her virginity and yet rooting for her to get the sweetest deal.  I found all the characters interesting and even the most static ones (motivation-wise/purely evil) were given more backstory as time went on to soften or at least justify their personalities. 

At times, the narrator really got on my nerves.  Not even so much with her actions, though her defiance often had me cringing and anxious for her, but while the prose is often enchanting, Golden also gets preachy at times and addresses the reader to make some lazy points.  The line that I annotated as particularly guilty of this was “But sometimes life is like that, isn’t it?  And I really do think if you’d been there to see what I saw, and feel what I felt, the same might have happened to you.”

Divine intervention, fate, or coincidence, plays a large role in this novel as well, but because of the culture it doesn’t come across as too far-fetched.  The prose is also littered with nature metaphors, which seems inevitable given the style, but could be forced at times.  I loved the novel for the range of material it covered—not just Chiyo’s actual time as a geisha, but in true memoir style— her complete history from childhood, to life in the aftermath of WWII when her idea of normal was once again changed forever.  Chiyo’s reality changes for her multiple times throughout the novel, which changes her motivations and goals, and it makes for a lasting and overall very human experience. 


While pretty and poignant, Memoirs of a Geisha was still written by an American man.  I recommend it to anyone superficially curious about Eastern cultures, or a desire to get spellbound by a captivating, but often untold story.  

Rating: 4/5
Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden

As a recent fan of historical fiction, Memoirs of a Geisha fit exactly what I was looking for.  This is a book that I think most people have on their to-read shelf at some point, and I highly recommend that you sit down with this one.  I have not actually seen the movie, but I think I might look it up as soon as I finish this review.

As far as the actual story, the life of a geisha was mesmerizing to me.  The training and the art and the subtlety were all either incredibly interesting or just told in a way that made them seem so.  Rather than bombarded with facts, you get introduced to the world alongside Chiyo (though her name changes), a young girl taken from her ill and poverty-stricken parents and sold to a geisha house.  I became completely immersed in the society and it’s an interesting feeling to find yourself falling somewhere between being horrified at the idea of a pre-teen girl being valued most for her virginity and yet rooting for her to get the sweetest deal.  I found all the characters interesting and even the most static ones (motivation-wise/purely evil) were given more backstory as time went on to soften or at least justify their personalities. 

At times, the narrator really got on my nerves.  Not even so much with her actions, though her defiance often had me cringing and anxious for her, but while the prose is often enchanting, Golden also gets preachy at times and addresses the reader to make some lazy points.  The line that I annotated as particularly guilty of this was “But sometimes life is like that, isn’t it?  And I really do think if you’d been there to see what I saw, and feel what I felt, the same might have happened to you.”

Divine intervention, fate, or coincidence, plays a large role in this novel as well, but because of the culture it doesn’t come across as too far-fetched.  The prose is also littered with nature metaphors, which seems inevitable given the style, but could be forced at times.  I loved the novel for the range of material it covered—not just Chiyo’s actual time as a geisha, but in true memoir style— her complete history from childhood, to life in the aftermath of WWII when her idea of normal was once again changed forever.  Chiyo’s reality changes for her multiple times throughout the novel, which changes her motivations and goals, and it makes for a lasting and overall very human experience. 

While pretty and poignant, Memoirs of a Geisha was still written by an American man.  I recommend it to anyone superficially curious about Eastern cultures, or a desire to get spellbound by a captivating, but often untold story.  

Rating: 3/5Ghosting - Edith Pattou
I received an epub of this novel from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.I will admit that I am a little biased because I am not a huge fan of poetry novels—those framed like the Crank series. My general feeling is that they’re a big waste of paper and an attempt at a deeper meaning usually falls short, but I received this as an epub so the damage was not so devastating! That being said, I liked it. It’s short and easily digestible and held my interest, but it wasn’t anything terribly intriguing. The summary on goodreads refers to it as “naturalistic free verse and stream of consciousness” and I’d say it was executed just about as well as you could expect. The book tells the story of a teenage prank gone wrong. It’s told from multiple perspectives and through that, you get the idea that everyone is unique and deals with things differently and plays a special role in the way things work out. The “uniquity” is made very blatant in the sense that you can visually see that these are different people because while the voice stays almost exactly the same (and all nine in first person), the lines are broken up differently or varied in literality. The most notable were merely cosmetic differences, such as one “voice” using a title at the beginning of each of her poems, while none of the others do. The characters themselves were compelling in the sense that they were all very different from each other but changed by this one event in an almost Breakfast Club sort of way. The way the story is told, the foreshadowing makes it pretty clear what sort of *something* is going to happen, but not so transparent that I got bored or wanted to stop reading. It really bothered me that the author chose to include the dates of the events, because the time passing was significant, but didn’t make even a glossing over sort of mention to major holidays? My biggest complaint was mostly that I didn’t see who the intended audience of the poems was for—were these kids writing to themselves like in a journal format, were they writing for school, for a memoir, was there a conscious audience? At times it was very personal and at times it was oddly biographical, it just didn’t seem like there was a set style or intention guiding the whole thing. I recommend Ghosting to young adult readers looking for a quick thrill, but as far as a new Halloween scare, I’m still on the look-out. 

Rating: 3/5
Ghosting - Edith Pattou

I received an epub of this novel from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I will admit that I am a little biased because I am not a huge fan of poetry novels—those framed like the Crank series. My general feeling is that they’re a big waste of paper and an attempt at a deeper meaning usually falls short, but I received this as an epub so the damage was not so devastating! 

That being said, I liked it. It’s short and easily digestible and held my interest, but it wasn’t anything terribly intriguing. The summary on goodreads refers to it as “naturalistic free verse and stream of consciousness” and I’d say it was executed just about as well as you could expect. The book tells the story of a teenage prank gone wrong. It’s told from multiple perspectives and through that, you get the idea that everyone is unique and deals with things differently and plays a special role in the way things work out. The “uniquity” is made very blatant in the sense that you can visually see that these are different people because while the voice stays almost exactly the same (and all nine in first person), the lines are broken up differently or varied in literality. The most notable were merely cosmetic differences, such as one “voice” using a title at the beginning of each of her poems, while none of the others do. 

The characters themselves were compelling in the sense that they were all very different from each other but changed by this one event in an almost Breakfast Club sort of way. The way the story is told, the foreshadowing makes it pretty clear what sort of *something* is going to happen, but not so transparent that I got bored or wanted to stop reading. It really bothered me that the author chose to include the dates of the events, because the time passing was significant, but didn’t make even a glossing over sort of mention to major holidays? My biggest complaint was mostly that I didn’t see who the intended audience of the poems was for—were these kids writing to themselves like in a journal format, were they writing for school, for a memoir, was there a conscious audience? At times it was very personal and at times it was oddly biographical, it just didn’t seem like there was a set style or intention guiding the whole thing. 

I recommend Ghosting to young adult readers looking for a quick thrill, but as far as a new Halloween scare, I’m still on the look-out. 

Rating: 3/5Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
This is another book that I tried to read when I was very young and just couldn’t get through.  That being said, if I hadn’t had to read it for school, I wouldn’t have finished it this time around either.

While Oliver Twist is an interesting read and the mystery unfolds in a way that keeps you guessing, I just couldn’t get through the unrelentingly terrible treatment of orphan Oliver Twist.  

The story follows Oliver from his birth in a workhouse through his various caregivers who are all selfish, unloving, and even cruel.  He’s labelled as a bad seed from birth and treated that way for hundreds of pages.  Any spark of hope, any light at the end of a tunnel, is instantly squashed and things are left even worse than they were before.  It might be intrigue for some, but it’s just not something that I look for as a reader.  

On the other hand, after slogging through, I was pleased with where the story went and I enjoyed learning more about the criminals and their motives.  Oliver does eventually meet some people who aren’t completely evil, but then the problem arises of them being entirely too good.  

The characters were one dimensional and even Oliver never really changes.  Despite his circumstances, he remains the same naive, innocent little boy who famously asks for more gruel.  

The ending comes up rather quickly and ties up the loose ends a little too perfectly for my taste, but I was dying to know how everything worked out, and Dickens leaves no stone unturned.  Even the most minor characters, including the dead ones, get a mention in the last few chapters and nothing is left to the imagination— a blessing, or a curse, depending on your preference for finality or sophistication.  

Rating: 3/5
Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens

This is another book that I tried to read when I was very young and just couldn’t get through.  That being said, if I hadn’t had to read it for school, I wouldn’t have finished it this time around either.

While Oliver Twist is an interesting read and the mystery unfolds in a way that keeps you guessing, I just couldn’t get through the unrelentingly terrible treatment of orphan Oliver Twist.  

The story follows Oliver from his birth in a workhouse through his various caregivers who are all selfish, unloving, and even cruel.  He’s labelled as a bad seed from birth and treated that way for hundreds of pages.  Any spark of hope, any light at the end of a tunnel, is instantly squashed and things are left even worse than they were before.  It might be intrigue for some, but it’s just not something that I look for as a reader.  

On the other hand, after slogging through, I was pleased with where the story went and I enjoyed learning more about the criminals and their motives.  Oliver does eventually meet some people who aren’t completely evil, but then the problem arises of them being entirely too good.  

The characters were one dimensional and even Oliver never really changes.  Despite his circumstances, he remains the same naive, innocent little boy who famously asks for more gruel.  

The ending comes up rather quickly and ties up the loose ends a little too perfectly for my taste, but I was dying to know how everything worked out, and Dickens leaves no stone unturned.  Even the most minor characters, including the dead ones, get a mention in the last few chapters and nothing is left to the imagination— a blessing, or a curse, depending on your preference for finality or sophistication.  

Rating: 5/5To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before - Jenny Han
I love Jenny Han. I recommend The Summer I Turned Pretty series to everyone, and while this one is not quite as fabulous, there’s two more books in the series so I’m very optimistic. This book is not what I expected at all. Granted, I almost never read synopses of books before I read them, but based on the title alone I was expecting to read about a girl obsessed with her exes and gradually learning to let them go and move on with her evolved life, and that’s not what this is at all. Instead of being rooted in the past, this story is all about what can happen in the present and the future if you let your guard down. The main character, Lara Jean, is naïve and “judgey” but she tries new things throughout the novel and seems to grow in a really authentic way. I honestly just think Jenny Han is just an amazing author who really knows what it feels like to be a teenager in love. I love the whole Song family. I love the dynamic of an older sister in college and her high school sweetheart who wants to remain part of the family, I love Lara Jean’s struggle between keeping a close relationship with her sisters and father and her need for privacy as a teenager, I even love her little sister Kitty whose hand I could always predict in whatever mischief occurred. I was amused by a reference to 4 Lokos which was great if only because I’ve had that exact conversation with my friends before and it was a nice little homage to high school. The only thing that frustrated me is how many cliffhangers we’re left with. I should’ve assumed it was part of a series, but I didn’t think about it and now I’m going to be on pins and needles waiting for the next one. It probably shouldn’t get a full five stars because I have very mixed feelings about the ending of this novel, but nothing that can’t be resolved in the next installment and overall, I’m satisfied with the way Lara Jean is evolving as a character and I’m just very excited to see where she, and the rest of the characters, go next. 

Rating: 5/5
To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before - Jenny Han

I love Jenny Han. I recommend The Summer I Turned Pretty series to everyone, and while this one is not quite as fabulous, there’s two more books in the series so I’m very optimistic. 

This book is not what I expected at all. Granted, I almost never read synopses of books before I read them, but based on the title alone I was expecting to read about a girl obsessed with her exes and gradually learning to let them go and move on with her evolved life, and that’s not what this is at all. Instead of being rooted in the past, this story is all about what can happen in the present and the future if you let your guard down. The main character, Lara Jean, is naïve and “judgey” but she tries new things throughout the novel and seems to grow in a really authentic way. I honestly just think Jenny Han is just an amazing author who really knows what it feels like to be a teenager in love. 

I love the whole Song family. I love the dynamic of an older sister in college and her high school sweetheart who wants to remain part of the family, I love Lara Jean’s struggle between keeping a close relationship with her sisters and father and her need for privacy as a teenager, I even love her little sister Kitty whose hand I could always predict in whatever mischief occurred. 

I was amused by a reference to 4 Lokos which was great if only because I’ve had that exact conversation with my friends before and it was a nice little homage to high school. 

The only thing that frustrated me is how many cliffhangers we’re left with. I should’ve assumed it was part of a series, but I didn’t think about it and now I’m going to be on pins and needles waiting for the next one. It probably shouldn’t get a full five stars because I have very mixed feelings about the ending of this novel, but nothing that can’t be resolved in the next installment and overall, I’m satisfied with the way Lara Jean is evolving as a character and I’m just very excited to see where she, and the rest of the characters, go next. 

Sorry for the late post this week! I’ve been in a reading frenzy, but haven’t taken the time to write out the reviews yet. Hope you’re all having as much fun doing summer reading as I am!

Rating: 4.5/5
The Art of Racing in the Rain - Garth Stein

Upon finishing the book, I immediately wanted to give it a five star rating, but now that I’ve had a day to consider it, I don’t think I could give it more than a 4.5.  

The Art of Racing in the Rain is told from the perspective of a dog, Enzo, who believes that when dogs die, if they are ready, they return to the world in human form.  I’ve seen many people who hate that it’s written like that, mostly because they think that it doesn’t add anything to the story, but I disagree.  The biggest thing that kept coming up with Enzo was how helpless it was.  His master was suffering and he could do nothing to help him, not even offer some words of comfort, much like the master himself could do nothing to get out of his situation.  

I wanted to give it a five when I finished it, but I’ve had time to reflect and I’m remembering now the hours I spent reading as fast I could, sure that the conflict had to be resolved somewhere.  The story of this man is just so frustratingly terrible that I couldn’t stand it.  It was stressing me out reading setback after setback, which is by no means a flaw of the book, maybe just me being more empathetic toward fictional characters than need be.  

Stein does take some liberties with the narrator and he bypasses some of the limitations that come with a dog as your narrator, but this was just another case where a book had me so swept up that I didn’t mind.  That probably makes me a bad reviewer, but I’m the kind of person who thinks a book has merit any time it draws you into its world, and that’s exactly what this one does.  

I cried like a baby.  I definitely recommend it.  

Rating: 4.5/5

The Art of Racing in the Rain - Garth Stein

Upon finishing the book, I immediately wanted to give it a five star rating, but now that I’ve had a day to consider it, I don’t think I could give it more than a 4.5.  

The Art of Racing in the Rain is told from the perspective of a dog, Enzo, who believes that when dogs die, if they are ready, they return to the world in human form.  I’ve seen many people who hate that it’s written like that, mostly because they think that it doesn’t add anything to the story, but I disagree.  The biggest thing that kept coming up with Enzo was how helpless it was.  His master was suffering and he could do nothing to help him, not even offer some words of comfort, much like the master himself could do nothing to get out of his situation.  

I wanted to give it a five when I finished it, but I’ve had time to reflect and I’m remembering now the hours I spent reading as fast I could, sure that the conflict had to be resolved somewhere.  The story of this man is just so frustratingly terrible that I couldn’t stand it.  It was stressing me out reading setback after setback, which is by no means a flaw of the book, maybe just me being more empathetic toward fictional characters than need be.  

Stein does take some liberties with the narrator and he bypasses some of the limitations that come with a dog as your narrator, but this was just another case where a book had me so swept up that I didn’t mind.  That probably makes me a bad reviewer, but I’m the kind of person who thinks a book has merit any time it draws you into its world, and that’s exactly what this one does.  

I cried like a baby.  I definitely recommend it.